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The Impact of the Energy Crisis on the Education Sector

The current global energy crisis is unprecedented and, for most, unexpected. As prices were pushed higher and higher throughout 2022, household bills soared, and most of us felt the sting to our bank balances. In the year ahead, it’s predicted that a third of the global economy will shrink, with most of the population feeling as though they’re experiencing a recession. But how does this affect the education sector?

UK inflation rates have risen to a 40-year-high of 9% and as with every other industry, education won’t be left unaffected by the price hikes, and we’ve taken a look at just what you can expect in 2023 and beyond.

Energy Crisis and Education

In the first quarter of 2022, it was estimated by the House of Commons Library that gas and electricity prices in schools and colleges saw a hike of almost 85%. Over the winter of 2022-2023, it’s expected that the education sector will see a further price increase, with bills rising by over 500% as the cold weather takes hold. This winter has been unseasonably cold at times, too, with snow across most of the country not helping to keep energy prices low. 

There’s no doubt that the education sector is struggling. Budgets for 2022 hadn’t been ready to deal with an unexpected energy crisis, and with many schools already stretched to the limit, the cost increases were anything but welcome.

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How Could Price Hikes Impact the Education Sector? 

No education establishment is guaranteed to stay afloat during the energy crisis. The price hikes must be taken as seriously in this sector as they are across businesses, where a budget stretched too thin can lead to poorer service and forced closures.

However, with government pressure to stay open, reducing the school week isn’t an option. This forces schools to look at cuts elsewhere, which is a worrying thought for many. A prominent fear is that the energy crisis will lead to teacher cuts and unbalanced pupil:teacher ratios, reducing the quality of education in the UK. 

What is the Government Doing to Help?

The main support scheme the government has established for the education sector is the Energy Bill Relief Scheme. This began providing relief for schools and other public sector establishments on 1 October 2022 and runs until 31 March 2023. Through this scheme, energy rates have been reduced to £211 per MWH for electricity and £75 for gas, leaving you more money to pay teachers, organise seminars from professionals - such as the School Recycling Programme -  and purchase new P.E. equipment. However, this relief is only available to educational institutions holding fixed-price contracts agreed after April 1 2022, alongside variable and flexible contracts.

Though the price decrease certainly helps, it has come under criticism for merely delaying the problem rather than fixing it. Whilst it will provide a small relief over the hardest period of the year, in the long term, the education sector will still be struggling.

Major Issues to Be Aware Of During the Crisis

Any school, trust, or college must be aware of the main issues they face during the energy crisis. To help, we’ve outlined some of the key problems to keep on your radar.

Breach of Contract

As energy prices increase, schools must ensure they can pay their invoices. If you don’t pay an energy supplier, you may be liable to claims for damages and termination of your contracts, neither of which are ideal in an already difficult time. 

At this time, it’s recommended that every school and trust reviews their energy contract and payment terms. Make sure you know what happens if you make a late payment, and look into whether there are options for payment plans to ease the strain of your energy bills.

Price Hikes From Third Parties

It’s not just your energy bills that have increased, but that of your suppliers, too. Frequently, they’ll try to pass their elevated costs onto you by pushing up their fees. Be sure you check your contracts to see if this is lawful or if you’re in a fixed-term contract. Shop around for quotes, too, ensuring that you get the best prices.

Issues Outside of School

In the education sector, you have a responsibility to maintain the well-being of the children in your care. For many schools - particularly in low-income areas - this extends outside of the classroom. With parents struggling to feed and clothe their children, schools shouldn’t hesitate to call in pastoral help and community aid to support struggling kids. Collecting food and clothing for struggling families can make all the difference in your community.

Keep the Pressure on the Government

There are few schools, colleges, and trusts that aren’t affected by the current energy crisis. One way that you can help the entire country is by keeping up the pressure on the government, asking for more relief and long-term schemes to keep educational establishments afloat. Sign petitions and contact your local MP to find out more about what you can do to help.

Final Words

The energy crisis isn’t leaving many industries unscathed, but the education sector has felt the squeeze particularly hard. Hopefully, this article has shone a light on how schools and trusts have been affected so far, and how they can stay afloat in the months ahead. Remember, if your school is struggling, never be afraid to turn to the community for help!

About the author- Kate Sheppard is a mum of two, living in Sussex. Kate enjoys writing about the ups and the downs of parenting and isn't afraid to tell it how it is. She’s passionate about all things families, the countryside, children's education, and women's rights.


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